Are you a registered nurse who has been working in the field for a while now, but you have gotten to the point where you no longer feel challenged? Job growth and development is something that many people strive for, looking to find ways to further their knowledge and work up the career ladder. The good news is that the career of a registered nurse can act as a stepping stone if you like, as you can then get a graduate degree in a more specialized area, allowing you to take on a leadership role that challenges you and allows you to have an impact on the healthcare industry and your patients.
One of the more specialized career options is that of an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner. While this role isn’t always talked about, thanks to the aging baby boomers, it has become a very in-demand career as you will be treating adult patients specifically. So, let’s peel back the layers and look at what this career involves and whether it may be right for you.
Nurse Practitioner Labor Statistics – A Positive Outlook
When it comes to career statistics and outlook, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics all signs point in a very positive direction. Nurse practitioners, in general, are set to grow by 45% between 2020-2030, which is staggering and way above the national average. And the even better news is the fact that this growth is being seen country-wide, giving you a lot of flexibility in terms of where you want to put down roots and start this new career path.
The median pay for nurse practitioners in 2020 was $117,670, and that can be higher if you choose a specialty track such as adult-gerontology.
A Record Number of New Licenses
Further proof that this is a very in-demand career at the moment is the fact that the year 2020 saw the highest number of nurse practitioner licenses issued. It rose by 12% during 2020 compared to 2019. Certainly, much of that rise in licenses during 2020 can be attributed to the pandemic that was putting a squeeze on healthcare resources.
The emergence of nurse practitioners into a more prominent role was also highlighted as a healthcare trend to watch for in 2021, and so far it has been true. Many rural hospitals have closed in the past couple of years, leaving all kinds of people without access to care. Nurse practitioners can step in and fill that gap, especially during these times where doctors are in short supply.
What Is a Nurse Practitioner?
For those outside the healthcare field, or even registered nurses who aren’t familiar with nurse practitioners, you may be wondering what the difference is. What makes them different from registered nurses, other than being paid more?
A nurse practitioner is explained as an advanced practice nurse. What this means is that they can provide more advanced services than a registered nurse. They can assess a patient, order laboratory and diagnostic tests, read those tests, diagnose illnesses, create a patient treatment plan and discuss it with the patient, promote health and well-being, and discuss disease prevention with patients.
Depending on the state you are practicing in, a nurse practitioner will either need to work under the supervision of a physician, or they may be able to have their independent practice. This is a hot topic in the news right now, as many professionals in different states are pushing for more independent practices. This could open the door to more available resources for patients, which can increase the quality of care.
Nurse practitioners have been around since the mid-1960s, so it’s not a new position, but it doesn’t always get the attention it deserves. And it’s not just here in the United States, since many other countries are also embracing what nurse practitioners can bring to the table and you’ll find them in Canada, Ireland, Australia and the United Kingdom, to name a few.
What’s Needed In Terms of Education?
To further your career and become a nurse practitioner, you will need to be a registered nurse with either an MSN or a BSN. As long as you have that prerequisite, you can enroll in a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program. Schools such as Baylor University offer a specific adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner track, which will ensure you’re prepared for the career ahead.
Throughout your courses in this track, you will be learning about acute critical care in adult patients. Patients include young adults, adults and senior adults – so you can get a wide mix in your practice. Common things you will encounter in your studies will be chronic illness, complex critical care, complex acute care, disability and how to improve the outcome for your patients.
As for where you can work once you graduate, again, there are a lot of options. You’ll find these specialized nurse practitioners just about everywhere including hospitals, clinics, trauma units, long-term care facilities, ER, ICU and more.
Are There Other Nurse Practitioner Tracks?
Part of what makes the career path of a nurse practitioner so attractive is the variety it offers. There’s more than just adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioners; other tracks include:
- Pediatric Nurse Practitioner
- Neonatal Nurse Practitioner
- Family Nurse Practitioner
Each one focuses on a different patient group, and your education/studies will reflect that. It gives you a chance to pick a track you feel passionate and excited about.
Now Is the Time to Give It Consideration
If there has ever been a time where you’ve thought about going back to school and furthering your skills in the healthcare field, now would be that time. Registered nurses can climb the career ladder, train for a more specialized position, command a higher salary and step into a role that is growing and is very much in-demand. It could be the start of a whole new and very exciting path.